January 20, 2022
(Island Records)Waspish portraits of the country’s worst people – from alpha male businessmen to middle-class foodies – are punchily delivered by this excitingly undeveloped Leeds quartet
Yard Act: The Overload review | Alexis Petridiss Album of the Week
Given that the music business has spent most of the last two years in a kind of suspended animation, there’s something quite startling about the rise of Leeds quartet Yard Act. They appeared to come out of nowhere – they released their first single, the attention-grabbing Fixer Upper, at the height of the first national lockdown – and swiftly rocket to the forefront of the strain of alt-rock that eschews singing for sprechstimme vocals. Eighteen months on, they find themselves on a major label, touting a debut album that some observers think is going to enter the charts at No 1 (admittedly, not a rarity for indie acts in an era of diminishing sales).
Their default musical setting is skittery-but-muscular post-punk funk: punchy disco drums, stabbing guitar, the melodies driven by the bass. That it tends to resolve pleasingly into memorable choruses, during which frontman James Smith sometimes drops into a bruised, untutored croon, has clearly aided their speedy progress. So too, one suspects, has the fact that their lyrics bluntly confront post-Brexit Britain – “the age of the gentrified savage … the overload of discontent,” as the title track puts it. They specialise in waspish pen portraits: of ghastly alpha male businessmen (The Incident), defiant embezzlers (“I’m the victim here,” protests the protagonist of Quarantine the Sticks), middle-class foodies “growing your own lettuces in the potholes on the road”. It’s on-the-nose but it’s also incisive and funny – Dead Horse skewers the far-right’s notion of British culture as “knobheads Morris dancing to Sham 69”.
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